Despite the intervention of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to halt the strike by tanker drivers, the chaos occasioned by the return of fuel queues in Abuja worsened on Tuesday as many filling stations experienced long queues, causing anguish and heavy traffic on streets in Abuja and its environs.
The Group Managing Director of the NNPC, Mallam Mele Kyari, had on Monday told journalists that the fuel queues would soon disappear after brokering a deal with the petrol tanker drivers.
Kyari also on Tuesday told journalists after meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa in Abuja, that there was nothing to worry about over the fuel queues, as the situation would soon normalise.
The emergence of the long queues occurred about two months after a similar round of petrol scarcity hit major cities across Nigeria as marketers alerted that access to the product was becoming hectic amid complaints that they couldn’t continue to sell at N162 when the landing costs were increasing by the day.
While many filling stations were shut yesterday, the few that sold the product had long queues of motorists waiting to buy fuel.
It was learnt that the Petrol Tanker Drivers (PTD) had suspended the strike after a meeting with officials of the NNPC.
The Total filling station along Sultan Abubakar Way was busy when THISDAY visited, while the NNPC filling station on Olusegun Obasanjo Way, in Wuse Zone 3 had a long queue of motorists.
It was the same story in Idu in the town’s outskirt at Major Oil Filling station, as black market sellers had a field day selling petrol between N200-N300 per litre.
Also, as of Tuesday, no fuel station sold petrol to motorists along Lugbe Airport Road and Kubwa expressway.
At Lugbe, along airport road, the Mobil filling station there was shut, while a Forte Oil filling station at Life Camp junction was opened but commercial drives and other customers were not attended to under the guise that there was no stock.
The story was not different at Danmarna petroleum limited, located along Airport Road and Conoil filling station located beside the NNPC fuel station in Lugbe as none of them opened for business.
The situation was further compounded by persons who wanted to buy fuel in containers to power their generators, following the deteriorating power supply in the country. Around 17 of the nation’s 25 power plants are currently down due to either lack of gas supply or routine maintenance.
Long queues also returned to retail outlets in Wuse, Gwarimpa, Wuye, Garki, Gwagwa, Karimu, Jabi, Italian and Kubwa expressway while other outlets were not selling the product.
An Uber cab driver, Ahmad Sani, while lamenting the return of the long queues, called on the federal government to put measures in place to bring sanity to the oil sector.
“They encourage parallel market and most times their fuel is bad. We don’t need to always face this problem in buying petrol every month, we need a permanent solution,” he said.
A taxi driver, Sunday Adaji, said he had been at the petrol station since 8:00 a.m. and was yet to buy petrol as of 10:30 am.
But Kyari yesterday assured motorists that the fuel queues would soon disappear, stressing that the “scarcity” was a consequence of the suspension of operations by tanker drivers who were protesting some labour issues with their employers.
The NNPC boss, who spoke with journalists after meeting with Buhari, said there was nothing to worry about.
He attributed the queues to the industrial action embarked upon by the petrol tankers drivers, adding that following the intervention of the NNPC, the strike had been suspended for one week to enable a resolution of the issues at stake.
“These queues will go away. It is because there was industrial action by petroleum tanker drivers against their employers, the National Association of Road Transport Owners around their compensation package.
“And those issues were not resolved up till yesterday until we intervened to ensure that there’s an amicable settlement between the parties so that they will have peace and then normal loading operations will commence from the depots.
“As I speak to you at this moment, loading has commenced in all depots in the country, dispatches of trucks are ongoing in all the depots in the country and they have called off the strike for a period of one week to enable us to intervene and find a solution. So, there’s really nothing fundamental that is happening now,” Kyari stated.
On the contentious issue of petroleum subsidy, Kyari said work on it would continued to ensure that when the nation exits the policy, it would be fair for all and sundry.
He said: “Subsidy is a policy matter. I’m sure you’re aware of this. There are engagements going on within the government to get the best framework for having a fully deregulated PMS market. As this is going on, we are engaging all parties and all stakeholders and to make sure that at the end of the day, there’s an exit that is beneficial to the ordinary man.
“That is why we know we will not be able to complete that in the month of May and therefore, we declared that there will be no increase in fuel price. I have no update in hand now. This is beyond me, but we’re engaging to make sure that we have the right timeline.”
Deji Elumoye, Chuks Okocha and Emmanuel Addeh in Abuja